On shuffling the Cards

The Cardinals have just won the World Series. Regardless of how bad the press seems to think they were, and how many Detroit fans want to say they don’t deserve it, they’ve won. It comes down to this: no one else could beat them. Their regular season record meant nothing. The Cardinals were the best team this postseason, and they’ve got the World Series trophy to prove it.

I admit, it’s kind of weird. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. That’s my team – my old team, actually; the first professional sports team I ever felt attached to. I could have been celebrating a World Series win today. Instead, I’m watching it from afar.

Before everything – before the Michael Jordan-era Bulls and the Miami Dolphins, and way before the Twins and Pacers, I was a Cardinals fan. My grandparents, who lived south of Cincinnati, took me to Reds games, often when the Cardinals were playing. So at the age of four, I saw Ozzie Smith. I saw Willie McGee. I didn’t comprehend a single thing that was going on, but I was there. And I always remembered that. I connected to them. They were my team.

The Cardinals were an easily identifiable franchise with a deep history and one of the top stars in the game – Ozzie Smith. He did back flips, and his name was “The Wizard,” and those two things made it impossible for me to like anyone else. I stuck by them for a long time.

I fostered a hatred for the Minnesota Twins for a long time after 1987, the year they bumped the Cardinals out of the World Series. I was too young to remember the 1982 Series win, so I figured they’d never win. It was my first sports heartbreak.

My teams have won championships before. In fact, I was spoiled by the Chicago Bulls for three years. But as time went on, the Cardinals became an afterthought, and through the strike years of baseball, they became a negligent part of my life.

So it’s weird that this year – the year I stopped sitting on the fence and embraced the Minnesota Twins after years of restraint and common sense – would be the Cardinals’ year. They were my first team. And now they’ve won a championship. It’s like losing track of a good grade school friend. You find yourself hearing about them from time to time through your parents’ friends, and then you discover that they have signed to a huge movie deal, becoming wealthy beyond anything you could have imagined in grade school.

You know that, if you were still close friends, you’d be right there with him. You’d be shaking his hand and celebrating his good fortune, and you would be set up for life yourself, because you’d been such a great friend. Such a confidant. He couldn’t imagine doing it with you. But instead, you can only watch from afar, thinking about what it would be like to be celebrating.

Sure, I’m happy for them. But I can’t celebrate for them. I lost that right when I made the choice to be a Twins fan.

Congratulations, St. Louis.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 28th, 2006